If you are looking to get a sense for the passion and heart of the team here at Boundless, you need look no further than our VP of Content and Learning Services, Steve Ernst. He is the star of this week’s “Meet the team” series and we invite you to read below to learn more about what drives him at Boundless.
Q: What’s your role at Boundless?
A: I oversee sales, content development, and learning services at Boundless. The team I manage also helps prioritize new functionality and content within the Boundless platform. My primary focus is on meeting with current and potential customers to share with them the tremendous value-adds provided by Boundless to faculty, students, academic institutions, and the openly licensed content community at large. I am blessed to be part of the Boundless team, a group that is very passionate about providing high-quality openly licensed digital courseware at an affordable price. Our mission is to ensure that faculty and students have access to required learning materials to enable achievement of student learning goals and outcomes.
Q: What were you up to before Boundless?
A: I am a geneticist by training, and was a tenured faculty member in plant genetics. I then moved into administration, and oversaw the development and management of the largest online program in higher education in Colorado (at that time). Having been “bitten” by the bug of educational technology, I then moved into the vendor space providing educational technology products and services, with a primary focus on adaptive learning and openly licensed digital courseware. My professional passion is to help increase the effectiveness of learning by providing faculty and students with access to best-in-class products and services in support of teaching and learning.
Q: What motivated you to join the Boundless team?
A: The Open Educational Resources (OER) movement has matured significantly thanks to many dedicated pioneers in the space. During my time in leadership roles with adaptive learning vendors and academic institutions, I partnered with Boundless to provide “content at the ready” in adaptive learning platforms. As part of that experience, I saw the growing interest in OER, and the potential impact of Boundless’ products and services. When the opportunity arose at Boundless, I eagerly accepted the invitation to join the team.
Q: What’s the best part of your job?
Two very tangible impacts:
1.) At Boundless we have the great privilege of providing high quality, affordable digital courseware at a key moment in history. In 2014, the US Public Interest Research Group surveyed 2,000 students across 150 campuses in the US, and 65% of those students had not purchased at least one textbook that term due to the high cost of textbooks. An even more startling statistic from the survey is that 94% of those students who reported not purchasing a textbook for cost reasons, said that they knew they were putting themselves at academic risk by not purchasing the textbook. That is very troubling, as the direct implication is that we, as an industry, have knowingly placed students at academic risk. Boundless, along with other OER providers, are providing an essential service to ensure that students and faculty have access to high quality learning resources that meet faculty teaching requirements and protect student outcomes.
2.) Working with the Boundless team is an incredible experience. I continue to be amazed at the passion, skills and dedication of the Boundless team in ensuring that students and faculty have access to required learning materials. Boundless operates in a textbook replacement model (i.e., a faculty member adopts the Boundless digital textbook in lieu of a traditional textbook). This not only saves the student a significant amount of money (at a time when the costs of education far exceed the inflation index), but also ensures that students and faculty have access to high quality digital textbooks that support their achievement of required student outcomes. The Boundless team is extremely passionate and skilled in fulfilling the Boundless mission and ensuring students and faculty can achieve their academic and professional goals. That passion and competence is manifest not only in the high quality of content available, but also the clean and effective user experience within the Boundless platform, including the seamless integration Boundless offers with all major LMS platforms.
Q: How many flights have you taken so far this year?
Yikes…I am not sure. I have the tremendous privilege to meet with customers from coast to coast in the US, and internationally as well, and serve as the initial voice of Boundless with those customers. I then get to hand off the customer interaction to other sales team members, members of our Content Team, and members of our Engineering team. It is so exciting to be working with current and potential customers, and as part of the Boundless team, that I rarely think about the amount of travel required (although I am sure my wife does). Regardless, the need for what Boundless provides is so palpable and tangible, that I truly do not think about yet another day or week away from home. The time is “now” for what Boundless provides, and the impact of Boundless’ content in the hands of faculty and students is so direct that I am always excited to get on the next plane and meet with a key group of faculty and administrators who want to provide their students with our highly customizable content. What a joy and an honor.
Q: When you’re not on the road, where are we most likely to find you?
A: I love spending time with my wife (for example, going on long walks with our dog), or spending time with our two grown children or other family and friends. In addition, I am an avid cyclist, and, living in the Boulder, Colorado, area, have access to some of the best cycling venues in the world. I am always in awe, riding at 5,000 feet or 12,000 feet, of the amazing montane environments in Colorado. Hopefully I will never take that for granted.
Q: If you could describe the Boundless team in one word, what would it be?
A: If you would be so kind, please let me use two words — passionate and competent. I am very blessed to work with a team that is both extremely passionate (intentional) about their professional role and mission, and also very competent at what they do. Every day I learn something new from each and all of the Boundless team. For example, please read (or re-read) what Eva Petzinger, Kevin Mook and Jodi Detch have posted on this blog, or simply experience first-hand the Boundless student and faculty environment. What an incredible team. Professional life does not get any better than this…to be a member of a very passionate and competent team doing great things on behalf of students and faculty.